With a Bit of Luck
“The Sultan’s White Camel,” Stanisław Chlebowski, 1871. Source: National Museum in Warsaw (public domain)
Good Mood

With a Bit of Luck

The Gift of Serendipity
Kamila Dzika-Jurek
time 10 minutes

The word “serendipity” means “lucky coincidence.” Perhaps it is the key to understanding the mysterious forces directing human fate.

In the mid-18th century, British writer Horace Walpole invented a new word in a letter to a relative. Actually, he borrowed it from a Persian fairy tale. The author of The Castle of Otranto was likely unaware that he might have described one of the most important elements of the complexity of human fate—serendipity.

Walpole’s discovery was hardly a revelation. It was rather an observation of a man who enjoyed playing with words and appreciated his own inventiveness. It is unlikely that anyone besides Horace Mann—the American politician and distant relative to whom Walpole wrote at the time—would notice this moment. It all happened in quite ordinary circumstances: sitting at home, writing a letter. Instead of shouting “Eureka!”, Walpole wrote to Mann: “I have nothing better to tell you […].” Most importantly, however, the matter concerned the word serendipity. It wouldn’t cure disease or solve hunger, but Walpole did something that all great explorers do—he opened up a whole new space and illuminated it, so that people could enter and see for themselves. A few centuries later, the idea of serendipity would become a field of inquiry for academics wishing to explain the mysterious forces directing human fate, as well as a modern tool for conducti


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The Life of Bruno Bettelheim
Aleksandra Kozłowska

Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim wanted to heal with fairy tales, care and kindness. His psychiatric hospital had no bars on the windows. He intended for his young patients to recover in a pleasant, calm environment. The story of the good doctor sounds like a fairy tale. And who knows – perhaps it was.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, beyond the Danube, Bruno Bettelheim was born. If his life were framed as a fairy tale, it would resemble a saga of a fight against evil – the kind you wouldn’t even read about in the collections of the Brothers Grimm. It would be a tale of the traces that this evil leaves on the human psyche, and how difficult experiences can be turned into something positive. Something enchanting. This fairy tale doesn’t have a happy ending, although it ended in precisely the way the protagonist wanted.

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